As protesters prepare to disrupt kangaroo shooters beginning the annual cull this week, the trial of fertility control announced by Territories Minister Shane Rattenbury is mired in disagreement.
Mr Rattenbury wants to work with Alphadog animal rescue charity director Marcus Fillinger on the trial, which would involve tranquillising up to 500 kangaroos in a landlocked reserve off the Barton Highway, and administering a fertility control drug.
But Mr Fillinger is insisting on a raft of scientific work to go with it, and a trial looks unlikely to be underway any time soon.
Mr Rattenbury announced the trial as a softener this week as the Government begins its annual cull, with shooters targeting 1606 eastern grey kangaroos in eight reserves from Wednesday night to the end of July.
The Government will not release details of where the two shooters will be each night, but the protesters don't expect shooting to begin until the new moon.
Protesters would "get on to the parks, find the shooters, stand in front of them and tell them to put the weapons down," Animal Liberation ACT spokeswoman Carolyn Drew said, conceding there was an element of risk, but saying they would be "lit up like Christmas trees so they know we're there".
Her group was still deciding on Tuesday whether to challenge the cull in court, after delaying last year's shoot with an appeal to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The tribunal eventually allowed the cull to go ahead, at reduced numbers.
Meantime, the man charged with the fertility control trial fears he is being set up to fail.
Mr Rattenbury got off to a bad start with Mr Fillinger this week, announcing the kangaroo cull and fertility trial without contacting him first, as he had promised. Mr Rattenbury apologised to Mr Fillinger for the oversight on Monday night, but the pair clearly have some way to go before they will be working together.
Mr Fillinger wants an independent scientific assessment of the trial, including an assessment of whether the kangaroo population in the Gungaderra Nature Reserve in Gungahlin even needs to be reduced, and if so, whether the animals should be translocated instead.
"If there have been no counts done how can you prove there's been an increase?" he asked. "You're tinkering with animals that might not need intervention. We need to be very very clear about a methodical, scientific process with real data, with real history. He needs to go through independent process of establishing what should be at that site."
Mr Fillinger said as far as he was aware there was no science to back the Gungaderra reserve as the right site for a fertility trial.
"I would be a fool to walk into something blindly," he said. "We're making sure that we've got enough checks and balances in place, we need to basically cover our butts that we're not being set up ... We're looking to do this the right way, and were not going to be bullied into this to be the fall guy."
Mr Rattenbury said yesterday Mr Fillinger had put forward the fertility proposal, which would seek to control kangaroo numbers on a scale never achieved in Australia, and he was taking them at face value on that and working to get it in place.
"It is a challenging conversation and there's certainly some high emotions around it," he told radio. "From my mind it's about getting on with the job ... No one in the Government likes the fact that kangaroos need to be shot and we are endeavouring to find a non-lethal alternative. Marcus and his team have come forward with a proposal. We'll see if we can make it work."
Animal Liberation opposes the fertility trial. Ms Drew said the idea had been to find an alternative to shooting the kangaroos, but the Government was shooting them anyway, at even higher numbers than last year.
Contrary to popular myth, kangaroos did not "breed like rabbits", but each female had just one joey that lived to adulthood. Fertility control was not necessary and came with the danger of a local extinction, she said.
President of the Australian Society for Kangaroos Nikki Sutterby said there was no scientific reason to support the cull.
"We stand in judgment of the Japanese because they have no science to support what they're doing to the whales yet we are killing millions of kangaroos in Australia with absolutely no science to support it," she said.
Kangaroos had complex social relationships which were being torn apart by the annual cull, she said.
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